Israel is a 70-year old country with thousands of years of history. What makes this country so unique? God chose to reveal Himself to His people there and His fingerprints are everywhere.
The Bible is full of stories that took place in Israel – stories about God reaching out, instructing, and loving His people. The Bible (which consists of 66 books written by 40 different people over a 1,500-year period) is God’s lifeline to us. Each story in the Bible is part of a much larger and more encompassing narrative. Today, I invite you to join me on a journey to discover the divine in Israel.
When I took the photograph featured at the beginning of this blog, I was standing on the Mount of Olives, overlooking the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. After taking the shot, I just stood there, thinking about the thousands of years of rich history that had taken place. It was a surreal experience.
So, what can we discover about the divine from this vantage point? Well, seven remarkable events took place in this area. Each event is described in detail in the Bible. In this blog, I’m going to briefly discuss each of these seven extraordinary events.
1. God Tells Abraham to Sacrifice Isaac on Mount Moriah
God commands Abraham to take his son Isaac on a three-day journey to Mount Moriah (where the Temple Mount is located today) and offer him as a sacrifice. God intervenes and spares Isaac’s life and provides a ram instead. This event was a precursor to the future. About 1,900 years later, “the Lamb” (which had been previously identified by John the Baptist) was crucified near Mount Moriah. God sacrificed His one and only son and provided a way for us to get back (or be reconciled to) Him. Read – Genesis 22.
2. God’s Presence Joins His People in the First Temple
David brings the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem where his son (Solomon) built the first temple so that God (His presence) could be with His people. God has always wanted to be with His people, but we’ve been separated from Him because of our sin. Read – 1 Chronicles 28.
3. God’s Presence Leaves through the East Gate
For hundreds of years, while God (His presence) was with the people, sin offerings were brought to the first temple. Over time, the people became perverse and wicked. God spoke to the prophet Ezekiel, revealing the secret sins of the priests and showing him that the people would be scattered throughout the world. God indicated that He would bring the people back to the land (which happened in 1948 when Israel became a country). God also indicated that He would put a new heart and spirit in the people (which happened at Pentecost). Then, God’s presence left the first temple, went through the East Gate (or the Golden Gate), up the Mount of Olives, and departed the earth. Read – Ezekiel 11.
4. Jesus Rides a Donkey Down the Mount of Olives into Jerusalem as the Foretold Messiah
As Jesus rides a donkey down the Mount of Olives, people on both sides of the road wave palm branches and shout Hosanna which means “I beg you to save” or “please deliver us”. Thus, Jesus presents himself as the “foretold” Messiah and fulfills prophecy dating back some 4,000 years to the time of Jacob. Read – Zechariah 9:9 and Read – John 12:12-19.
5. Jesus Arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane
After celebrating Passover together, Jesus and His disciples go to the Garden of Gethsemane (which is located at the base of the Mount of Olives). In anguish, Jesus prays to the Father, asking Him if there was another way to redeem humanity. Then, Jesus submits to the Father’s will and He’s arrested and taken to Jerusalem. Read – Luke 22:39-52.
6. After Rising from the Dead, Jesus Ascends into Heaven from the Mount of Olives
Jesus is tried and sentenced to death in Jerusalem. He’s crucified and dies. His body is placed in a tomb just outside the city. On the third day, He rises from the dead and later, He ascends into heaven from the Mount of Olives. Read – Acts 1:6-11.
7. When Jesus Returns, He will Descend from Heaven onto the Mount of Olives and Enter Jerusalem Through the East Gate
According to prophecy, at the end of the age, Jesus will return to the Mount of Olives. He will walk down the mountain, through the Kidron Valley, and enter Jerusalem through the East (or Golden) Gate and He will rule over “all” governments as King of Kings and Lord of Lords for a thousand years. Read – Zechariah 14:4-5 and 9.
While there’s so much rich history here, the “best” is yet to come!
If you haven’t been to Israel, I would encourage you to go. It’s truly an amazing place and a life-changing experience! If you can’t go (or in the meantime), I would encourage you to learn as much as you can about the land, the places described in the Bible, the events described in Scripture (and when they occurred), the people involved, and the culture of the day.
Psalm 48:12-13 (NLT) says, “Go, inspect the city of Jerusalem. Walk around and count the many towers. Take note of the fortified walls, and tour all the citadels, that you may describe them to future generations.”
What have you discovered about God and Israel today?
If you would like to learn more about God and Israel, check out my book Rediscovering the Divine: Seeing God in a Whole New Way.
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